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Full text of "A story about a real man"

A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   183
in mind the complexity of handling a fighter plane, the
pessimists claimed that he would not be able to fly. The
optimists, however, argued that for a man who, to get
away from the enemy, had crawled through a dense
forest for a fortnight, heaven knows how many kilome-
tres, nothing was impossible. And to back their argument,
the optimists quoted examples from history and from
fiction.
Anyuta took no part in this dispute. The artificial feet
of an airman unknown to her did not interest her very
much. In her rare spare moments, she pondered over her
feelings towards Gvozdev, which, it seemed to her, were
becoming more and more complicated. At first, on hear-
ing of this heroic officer, whose life had been so tragic,
she had written to him under the impulse of an unselfish
desire to assuage his grief. But as their acquaintance grew
in the course of their correspondence, the abstract figure
of a hero of the Patriotic War gave way in her mind to
a real, living youth, and this youth began to interest her
more and more. She noticed that she felt anxious and sad
when no letters came from him. This was something new,
and it gladdened and frightened her. Was it love? Was
it possible to love a man you have never seen, whose
voice you have not even heard, whom you know only from
his letters? More and more often there were passages in
the tankman's letters that she could not read to her fel-
low-students. After Gvozdev had confessed in one of his
letters that he had "fallen in love by correspondence", as
he expressed it, Anyuta realised that she too was in love,
that hers was not a schoolgirl's love, but real love. She
felt that life would lose its meaning for her if she ceased
to receive these letters to which she now looked forward
with such impatience.
And so they confessed their love for each other without
having met, but after this something strange must have
happened to Gvozdev. His letters became nervous, uneasy
and vague. Later, he plucked up courage to write to
Anyuta that it had been a mistake for them to have con-
fessed their love for each other without having met, that
Anyuta probably had no idea how terribly his face was
mutilated, that he was totally unlike the old photograph
he had sent her. He did not want to deceive her, he